Saint Lawrence's Vision of the Madonna and Child (Apparition of the Virgin to St. Lawrence) El Greco Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Saint Lawrence's Vision of the Madonna and Child is a 1577 painting by El Greco. It is sometimes known under the alternative title of Apparition of the Virgin to St. Lawrence.

The composition features Saint Lawrence looking up to the skies, whilst seeing a vision of the Madonna and Child, who are represented in the top right corner of the painting. The artwork measures 119cm by 102cm in total and it can be found at the Colegio del Cardenal, Monforte de Lemos. Many of the artist's signature touches can be found here, such as the expressive sky which lies in the background. Light is carefully used in this piece, shining down from the Madonna and Child upon the saint below, whilst keeping other parts of the composition slightly darker. This helps to deliver a feeling of a higher power guiding the saint as he watches on in amazement. This piece arrived in 1577 and that a very significant year in the life of El Greco, as it was then that he moved to Toledo in Spain from Italy. This geographical switch would also impact his artistic direction, bringing new influences into his work over the next few centuries and also helping to soften some of the impact made on him by Venetian art. That said, certain elements of his Italian period remained throughout his lifetime, such as with the use of bright colours that consistently adorn his portrait subject's clothing.

This painting was commissioned by Rodrigo de Castro, who was the archbishop of Seville, among other roles. The request was made privately, with the intention ot perhaps hanging the piece within his own home. El Greco was drawn to Spain by a number of large commissions and so arrived in the country with some momentum. Despite other artists initially rejecting him as an outsider, he was able to quickly add new patrons to his customer base. He produced many intimate portraits and religious scenes, with these two genres being enough on their own to keep him in constant work. He would eventually need to hire assistants as the workload grew, even employing his own son to oversee the logistics of some of these projects. Spain brought El Greco out of himself, and it was now that we started to see more innovation within his work, when previously he followed closely in the styles of Italian art from the likes of Michelangelo and Titian.

One of the memorable elements of this painting would have to be the detail used on Saint Lawrence's clothing. The yellow tones are vibrant, He stands with one palm open, gesturing an openness to the vision above him. El Greco would go on to feature saints within a whole plethora of paintings and these proved popular with his patrons. Some would also be completed by his workshop, including his son, or in collaboration with the master. A further role that they would play is in producing copies of his work which could then be used to please other patrons whilst avoiding the great master having to spend time reproducing his own work time and time again. This would be a more effective way for the workshop to function although it has brought some confusion over the attribution of several of his later artworks.